Date Nut Spice Bread


I had been dreaming about this bread since the moment I saw Ina Garten mix it up on one of her shows. Quick breads are always a favorite of mine, but combining cold-weather spices with dates, pecans and orange? That was more than a potential favorite; that was heaven. I quickly bookmarked the recipe and plotted for a time to make it. Well, busy minds tend to forget things like the most delicious-looking bread ever. It wasn’t until a few months later when I got Ina’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics book and saw that the bread was in there that my infatuation with it began to swell again. And now, finally, ANOTHER month or so later, I have made the bread. Hallelujah! Being a good Pittsburgh girl, I know the Heinz ketchup mantra of “good things come to those who wait” but man oh man, this is better than good, this is indeed heavenly.


The episode that this bread was featured on was one in which Ina puts together a breakfast basket for a friend that included this bread, the orange cream cheese, some homemade marmalade, and a few other things. Feeling fully inspired, I am using this bread as the centerpiece of some holiday gift baskets I am planning on making. While the cream cheese spread is fantastic (read: FANTASTIC!) and you should definitely not skip it, I am leery about putting it in baskets due to the lack of refrigeration factor. No sicknesses on my watch! So right now I am planning to put together a basket with this bread, a jar of preserves from a local orchard, a nice mug (or two, depending on who the basket is going to), a package of biscotti with complementary flavors, and some good chocolate.

I’m off to eat another piece of the bread and hum a few Christmas carols on the way!


More quick breads that might tickle your fancy:
Bananas Foster Banana Bread
Three Cheese Beer Bread
Black-and-White Banana Loaf
Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

Date Nut Spice Bread

Yield: 1 (8-inch) loaf

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes


2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
1/3 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)

For the Cream Cheese Spread:
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8½ x 4½ x 2½-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

2. Combine the dates and Cointreau in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with teh paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

5. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed until just combined.

6. Slice the bread and serve with the orange cream cheese on the side for spreading.


22 Responses to “Date Nut Spice Bread”

  1. Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on December 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    The cream cheese topping looks amazing!


  2. Alissa on December 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    The minute you put cream cheese on it, I started drooling.


  3. Neel | Learn Food Photography on December 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Absolutely love the date bread. Last time my wide made it, it was absolutely awesome. Did you use flash in the second photograph?


  4. Michelle on December 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Hi Neel – It is fantastic, isn’t it? No, I had the flash forced off the entire time but the sun was coming and going as I was taking the photos.


  5. Steph on December 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Wow, this looks so yummy. I miss Ina, I haven’t seen her show in ages. I’m usually too afraid to make loaves that involve spices so it’s always nice to see others make it.


  6. Drick on December 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    not only perfect looking but looks like one I could make – thanks for sharing this one…


  7. Giovanna on December 11, 2009 at 1:00 am

    this is perfect, I have had a large box of dates in my fridge and I needed to find something to do with them! Awesome ~ I’m all over that cream cheese : ) Just found your blog – I love it!


  8. stephchows on December 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    oh delicious!! and adding drunken dates sounds like a wonderful idea!


  9. theUngourmet on December 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I adore dates! Your orange cream cheese spread is absolutely perfect for this bread!


  10. 10downing on December 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I use a recipe similar to this to make a type of cracker. I chill the loaf very well and slice it really thinly then rebake it like a biscotti. The result is a sweet cracker that lasts forever and is wonderful with cheese, peanut butter or anything. It is great for picnics and back-country skiers and hikers. I will try it with this recipe next time I make them.


  11. The Klutzy Cook on December 14, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I have a HUGE bag of diced dates to use up (they were really cheap, what can I say) and this will definitely help. Thanks to you and Ina 🙂


  12. Rita on December 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for another great recipe! I have this bread in the oven as I’m writing this, it smells so good. I love dates, so I’m always on the lookout for new recipes that includes dates. Happy holidays!


  13. Hanaa on December 20, 2009 at 11:48 am

    That bread look great! I love dates :o)


  14. Ashley on December 26, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Mmm I’m definitely going to have to try this!


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  16. Libby on July 13, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Hi… Was wondering if there was any substitute for the alcohol used in the bread?


    • Michelle on July 13th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Libby, Because there is such a large quantity of it (1/3 cup), I wouldn’t straight omit it, but since it is orange-flavored liquor, I would recommend substituting more orange juice.


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